We all know how stress can effect our overall health, but did you know that stress also has a negative effect on your bones? In times of stress, the body releases a powerful hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is an essential life hormone, however in excess, it can contribute to many health issues, including bone loss and osteoporosis.
When the body undergoes stress, cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands. The main job of cortisol is to signal to the liver to release glucose (sugar) into the system to fuel the muscles for a flight or fight response. Once the stressful situation is over, cortisol levels should return to normal. However, long-term or chronic stress can cause cortisol levels in the body to remain elevated for long periods of time and this can have a negative effect on your health. Sustained elevation of cortisol will begin to cause tissue breakdown and inhibit new tissue formation, including bone.
Bone is a living, dynamic tissue that is always remodeling itself. Old bone is constantly being removed and new bone formed. This process is regulated by two cell types: osteoblasts, which aid in depositing new bone tissue, and osteoclasts, which break down old bone tissue. Disruption to either of these cell types results in changes in bone density. Cortisol disrupts bone formation by interfering with osteoblast formation and stimulating osteoclasts, thereby, leading to a dramatic decrease in bone density.
Cortisol also reduces the absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption and for maintaining adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations in the blood that are needed for normal bone mineralization.
When treating patients for osteoporosis, stress reduction techniques must be taken into consideration so that bone formation and repair can return to normal.